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Keep Your Mac Awake with Caffeine

The chemical formula for caffeine spelled out in coffee beans

A couple of days ago, I reviewed Bartender, a great application for tidying the menu bar on your Mac. It turns out that ProfHacker has been responsible for many of the small applications that sit in my menu bar. My fellow authors are constantly bringing new productivity tools to my attention, and I linked to the different reviews of those tools in that post. To my total surprise, however, I discovered that the little menu bar application that I use more than any other except Skitch is something that we’ve never reviewed. So it’s time to correct this oversight.

Back in the early days of personal computing, CRT monitors could develop screen burns, and so the screen saver was born. Once computer screens got better, screen savers weren’t really necessary any more but they hung on as a vestige because, well, who doesn’t like flying toasters and the perspective of flying through space? These days, my computer isn’t as likely to go into its screen saver as it is just to turn off its monitor to save power. On the whole, I’m good with this; but sometimes you just want your computer screen to stay on. For instance, I don’t want my screen saver coming on while I’m giving a talk or teaching a class. Fortunately, it turns out that you can use the same thing to keep your computer awake that you use on yourself.

Caffeine is a small, free app for Mac users by lighthead software. You can download it from their site or from the Mac App Store. Once installed, Caffeine sticks a small coffee cup icon in your menu bar, and presents you with its preference screen:

Screenshot of Caffeine preferences

As you can see, there are only a few choices: to start Caffeine upon booting your system; to start the system with Caffeine turned on; and to always launch the preferences screen. Finally, you can choose how long the shot of C8H10N4O2 will last. It can go for 5, 10, 15, 30, 60, 120, or 300 minutes. Or you can just set it to run indefinitely once invoked. To turn on Caffeine, it just takes a single click on that menu bar cup, and you’ve activated it. You can tell the app is running because the cup will suddenly appear half full rather than empty. Once on, Caffeine will keep your computer from going into screensaver or putting the display to sleep.

Caffeine is simple and just works. Once it’s installed, you’ll forget that it wasn’t something that shipped with the computer. And since it’s free? You’ve got nothing to lose in trying it out.

Do you use Caffeine for your computer? Are you aware of any similar tool for Windows or Linux distros? Let us know in the comments!

Lead image: Caffeine-2378 / CC BY 2.0

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